05/09/2009 12:00AM

Dee runner-up bound for Belmont

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Gitano Hernando, a head second to South Easter after a troubled trip in the $105,000, Group 3 Dee Stakes at Chester on Friday, is headed to New York for the Belmont Stakes. Owned by Team Valor and trained by the British-based Italian Marco Botti, Gitano Hernando was checked early in the running of this 1 1/4-mile, 75-yard Epsom Derby trial and again at the three-eighths pole. His rider, Johnny Egan, claimed foul against the William Haggas-trained winner, but after an 18-minute inquiry the stewards allowed the order of finish to stand, although they did suspend South Easter's jockey, Neil Callan, for careless riding.

So Gitano Hernando will arrive at Belmont Park as the near-winner of the Dee Stakes, which is the race the Richard Hannon-trained My Memoirs had won before finishing three quarters of a length second to A.P. Indy in the 1992 Belmont Stakes.

"We bought him with the Belmont Stakes in mind," said Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor, which owns the colt. "We think he can go at least a mile and a half. He'll be a fresh horse for the Belmont, for which he'll be trained by Botti, and then be turned over to Christophe Clement."

Purchased in January by Team Valor, Gitano Hernando is a son of Hernando, who won the French Derby in 1993, when that race was run at 1 1/2 miles He had prepped for his narrow miss in the Dee Stakes with a 2 1/2-length victory in a 1 1/4-mile, 60-yard handicap at Doncaster on March 29. His dam, Gino's Spirits, was good enough to finish second in the 1 1/4-mile, Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket before winning four stakes in America at or about a mile, among them the Grade 3 Noble Damsel Handicap on the Belmont turf. In five career starts to date, the Triple Crown-nominated Gitano Hernando has won twice with two second-place finishes for earnings of $42,175.